Zambia Safari Top Five National Parks
by Bruce Whittaker
Zambia is Africa's best-kept secret as far as safaris go. The country is a virtual unknown in comparison to other more traditional destinations but a Zambia safari can be every bit as good and in some cases even better.
This top five list of the best national parks and game reserves in the country gives you a taste of what to expect. It has been compiled from Zambia safari reviews at the African Safari Journals website, forums, travel magazines, industry expert opinions and my own twenty year plus African safari experience.
1. South and North Luangwa NP
Some experts have branded the Luangwa National Park as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world because the density of game you can find here mixed with the isolation and pure unadulterated wildness of it is almost without compare.
Because it is reasonably undiscovered except to the locals in the know and a select few foreign visitors, it hasn't been overrun by masses of tourists yet and you can experience a safari here as it should be and some say that is the best Africa has to offer.
There are over 60 species of animal here with the unfortunate exception of rhino because they were poached into extinction and over 400 different kinds of birds.
They all rely on and are drawn to the winding Luangwa river which is crowded with some of the biggest concentrations of hippo and crocodile you will find anywhere in Africa. It has been estimated that there are 50 hippos per kilometre of this congested river.
The South Luangwa was the birthplace of the walking safari and it is still a very popular way to explore the area from a quality collection of safari lodges and camps. Night drives are another excellent way to see leopard which are reputed to be more regularly seen in this park than anywhere else in Africa because of the high concentrations of the predator. Lions and even rare sightings like honey badger, civet and wild dog are likely to be seen.
To take the true Zambia safari adventure a step farther, the northern Luangwa area is even more remote, wild and isolated than the south and the wildlife and bird viewing experience is from the top draw. Definitely one for the safari cognoscenti.
2. Mosi-oa-Tunya NP
Despite it’s hard to pronounce name this park has something very special up its sleeve. That awe-inspiring wonder of the world: The Victoria Falls. As far as natural spectacles go, this is one of the best in Africa. Mosi-oa-tunya can be literally translated as "the smoke that thunders".
And thunder it does, so much so that the spray from the water crashing over the edge into the gorge below is enough to drench you to the bone as you go closer. The water travels onwards into a frothing maelstrom known aptly as the "boiling pot" before breaking into numerous rapids as it makes it way underneath the Victoria falls bridge which connects Zimbabwe and Zambia and then farther along into Batoka Gorge.
The park comprises the falls and a small strip of land 66 kilometres long on the North bank of the Zambesi which is worth a short visit to see what are probably Zambia's only remaining rhino (the rest have been poached into extinction). You might also see a small scattering of baboon, elephant, sable, giraffe, eland buffalo and impala.
3. Kafue NP
This is the largest national park in Zambia and is situated in the western part of the country.
The Kafue river provides the life-giving sustenance to a vast number of antelope species like the red lechwe in their thousands, hartebeest, oribi, duker, sable, roan, puka and waterbuck to name a few and the whole rouges gallery of predators are accounted for here too. The only animal that you won't find on a Zambia safari here is the giraffe.
It is advisable to go further north to the Basenga floodplain because game spotting is much better there due to thick woodlands obscuring views in the south. This floodplain sometimes retreats in the dry season trapping hapless hippo and crocodile in an ever shrinking mudbath.
Some of the roads in the park are not in good condition and are only drivable using a 4x4 vehicle and most of the safari lodges and accommodation is in the North.
With over 400 bird species recorded such as the wattled crane, goliath herons and purple crested lourie birders will have a ball here and budding fisherman can get tackle and rods from the lodges to land fresh water pike, barbel and bream.
4. Lochinvar NP
Another national park situated on the Kafue river floodplain, this wetland and savannah dominated national park has fewer mammals but is a bird paradise.
There are a large amount of Kafue lechwe (about 30 000) living here and some wildebeest and zebra herds but the only big game you will find is restricted to hippo, buffalo, leopard and spotted hyena but if you are a birder the over 420 species of bird will more than make up for that.
5. Lower Zambesi NP
One of Zambia's newest parks and it is still reasonably undeveloped but the beauty of this park lies in the ability to get close to animals on both sides of the river like elephant, buffalo, hippo and crocodile using canoe or motor boats which they seem to ignore until you are virtually right on top of them.
And being predominantly a water park there are an amazing amount of bird species here like the fish eagle, kingfishers, parrots, hornbills and lovebirds and for the anglers there are tiger fish, bream and vundu (a sort of catfish that can weigh op to 50kg) inhibiting these waters just waiting to be pulled out on a Zambia safari.
These are the Top Three Zambia Safari companies that you can use to organize a safari trip for you to the national parks and game reserves in that country.
Pick up tips, advice and recommendations from these Zambia safari trip reports written and photographed by previous travelers themselves.
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